They were exemplary in manners and wore impeccable, immaculate uniforms. However, they worked all day without rights and from dawn till dusk. They were ready to serve their masters and help improve the reputation of the houses they worked for, under the unwavering loyalty of valets, butlers, housekeepers and cooks of the day. Slavery was a common feature in Victorian times. Victims of child exploitation and sexual abuse. Frank Victor Dawes, who wrote "Never infront of the servants", a classic that recovers and exposes the harsh realities of domestic work through the testimony of its protagonists, confirmed this.
Harriet Brown started serving as a nurse at the tender age of 10. Harriet Brown began serving at the age of 10. Ellen de Ella, her daughter, was also ten years of age, and would be the eighth servant in a noble house. After brushing hardwood floors with silica and liquid soap, she would cry every night.
This is only one of many stories Dawes collected in his essay, "The book that tells Downton Abbey what it is silent." Its author explored the dark side to servitude close vassalage, which is discussed in recent films and series like "Libertad" (Clara Roquet 2021) or "La assistant" (Molly Smith Metzler 2021), and also addressed "Los innocent saints" (Mario Camus 1984) or "The ceremony” (Claude Chabrol 1995).
The opposite is the side that fantasizes about the complicated Victorian world. "Series like "Downton Abbey" or the famous "Up and Down" have helped to settle our imaginations about a peaceful and orderly world that is based on efficiency and unwavering dedication. Dawes, who was thirteen years old when he began serving as a maid, says that "nothing is further from the truth." Dawes was fascinated by the decline in servants in the UK from nearly a million and a quarter until World War I, when 'Upstairs and Downstairs" was the most popular British TV show. In 1972, Dawes published an advertisement in The Daily Telegraph asking for stories from former servants. The basis for the essay, which describes a century of domestic labor, was compiled from more than 700 letters. Although it was published in the United Kingdom over a century ago and was not translated into Spanish, it was still widely read.
Butlers, maids, governesses or cooks as well as some employers tell stories that "corroborate" the notion that they were workers and second-class people. Many house slaves were forced into service out of necessity. For the poor, shelter and food were a vital and laborious solution. Soon, however, they were attacked by the hypocrisy and double standards that would define their lives. The masters upstairs ate the delicious food prepared downstairs but could not eat leftovers. The gentlemen were able to enjoy luxurious rooms in the opposite direction of the cramped and uninviting attics of their servants.
Leonine rules regarding work uniforms or street clothes commanded the codified life of certain servants, who were required to be silent and mute when serving noble diners. They had to endure endless hours of constant ringing of a bell. Many maidens became sex toys for their masters, who had no time to relax, and no family or social life. They read the Bible (Ephesians VI.5-8): "Servants, obey your masters in this world with fear and trembling. Fulfilling the will of God from within the heart."
The memoirs of an anonymous Victorian gentleman are titled "My Secret Life", and it states that even the most humble women and servants fornicated secretly and were proud to have a gentleman to protect them. This was the view of men my age and of my lifestyle. Dawes says that because of the many pregnancies of servants she was the one to blame and not the family member who gave birth. They could be fired at will, without any references, and with prostitution, begging, or asylum as their only options.